Monthly Finance Meeting

Katie and I have been doing a monthly finance meeting for about 7 years now and it has had an incredible impact on our happiness, finances and collaboration. It is one of those things that if done well is a small investment of time that generates massive results over time.

If you want to change the course of your financial future then you need to focus on it. This might be the tool for you!

Why bother with a monthly finance meeting or tracking your finances?

You are never going to get yourself to follow through and do something without first understanding at a deep level why you are doing it. Once you have clear why then getting it done becomes a lot easier! With a big enough Why any How is possible.

Here are the reasons we think running a monthly finance meeting is critical:

  • Happier relationships. Money is the #1 reason for divorce in America and right up there in other countries. Money is something that needs to be talked about and dealt with. Don’t get a divorce, get a monthly finance meeting and open the conversation between yourself and your partner.

    It is not just with partners but also with other family members, friends etc. You might find that through the process of working on your finances together it will bring you closer together.

  • Avoid poverty in retirement. If you aren’t measuring your finances then how do you know which direction your finances are going in or if you are heading for a financial disaster? Most people are sleep-walking through life with their finances heading towards a retirement of poverty. If you aren’t saving enough now you are going to be left without the money to turn on the heating or enjoy your “golden years.” Take control now!

  • FUN! Finances can be a fun game to play if you change your mindset and start to take proactive action. It might not feel this way the first time you do your monthly finance meeting but after doing it for a while it starts to feel like you are really on top of them and you start to have fun. Katie and I actually look forward to the finance meeting all month and love doing it. It is also my excuse to go out for a lovely breakfast and coffee.
  • Save money. You might be wasting thousands of pounds/dollars a year without realising it! You will notice your direct debits, recurring payments and more. Just the act of consciously looking at your spending each month will change your habits. These monthly meetings will help you save and grow your financial pot!
  • Active control. These meetings give you active control. You check your accounts, are aware of your pensions, ISAs, 401Ks and more and can control them. Most people dump their pension statements in a draw each year and never look at them; not you! You will know what you are invested in, what fees you have and whether it is growing enough to provide for you in retirement!

​This list is not exhaustive and there are so many more reasons why tracking your finances is important and how doing so will have a huge, positive, life-changing impact on your life.

Need more motivation? Read: Why track your spending!

​The first step to getting on top of your finances is to work out your ‘why’.

If you and your partner, family member or friends can find a big enough ‘why’ to get on top of your finances then you will find the energy to make the monthly finance meeting happen and maybe even learn to enjoy it 15% as much as we do!

If you have a big enough why, How is Possible

Getting the most out of your monthly finance meeting

Once you know why then we can figure out how. This is our guide to tracking your finances and getting the most out of the monthly finance meeting.

The questions you need to answer here are:

  • When will it happen?
  • Where will it happen?
  • Who are you going to do it with?

When will you hold your monthly finance meeting?

Pick a day of the month (we choose the end of the month but it doesn’t really matter when!) and then set a time that you will sit down, record some numbers and ask yourself some questions. That is it! Simple!

It is critical to set a time and date for two reasons.

Firstly if you don’t it won’t happen. Life happens, things get in the way and then suddenly you are half way through the year without doing it. You can’t do everything but you can make time for the most important things. Choose what is important to you, set a date and make sure it happens. This is what you do if you want to see your friends isn’t it? You set a time and date and you let nothing get in the way! Treat your monthly finance meeting with as much respect as your friends (the ones you actually like!)

Secondly it trains in the habit. Good finances takes discipline to start with and then over time this turns into habit and becomes fun. After you have done this for a while it get’s easier and easier and eventually you will be like us, you’ll start to look forward to it.

Where are you going to hold it?

Where are you going to hold the monthly finance meeting? Where do you like to sit and chat and do some light personal finance work?

Katie and I always go to a nice café in the morning. I love a good cup of coffee and the thought of eggs benedict or an amazing breakfast always get’s me excited. Doesn’t really matter where, it can be at home around the dinning room table with a glass of wine or anywhere you can focus.

We choose to go somewhere we don’t know anyone and we can focus. We choose quieter places, if it too loud we can’t focus. The environment helps us. Make it pleasurable. This should be fun.

Who are you going to do it with?

Do you have a partner? Want to teach your kids about finances? Got a friend you are working on this with?

We humans do more for other people than ourselves. Commit to doing it with someone and you have a far higher chance of following through. Who are you going to invite to do this with you? If you don’t have anyone find a fellow Rebel from the Facebook Group.

What do you track at your monthly finance meeting?

Katie and I track four different things each month. If you have debt you are working out of then you would also do that as part of this monthly meeting! These are the key figures that will tell you know well, or not, you are doing with your finances. For each one Katie and I have created tools to help you do this.

The 5 main numbers Katie and I track each month are:

  1. Net-worth – a snapshot of how much money we have at that exact point in time
  2. Spending – where did our money go this month?
  3. How big is your gap – what was the gap between what we earned and what we spent? Did we spend more than we earned? Did we save any money?
  4. Wealth-building rate – how much did we put towards building wealth?
  5. Debt attack strategy: If you are working your way out of debt then the monthly finance meeting is the point to check how you are doing, review your strategy and see if you can do anything to speed up getting out of debt.

Let’s go into a bit of detail on each one…

Net-worth

Net-worth is a snapshot of your financial position at that moment in time. We log into our bank accounts and type our balance into the net-worth tracker excel sheet, we enter the values from our pensions and ISAs and how much we have left to pay on our mortgage etc.

There are 2 main resources to help you:

The reason it is important to track this number is because it shows how much you are building up to look after yourself in retirement. If you are young you might be thinking, “that is a long way off why bother.” If you are close to retirement you might be thinking “oh sugar, I might not have enough to live.”

No matter your age this is critical to track so that you know where you are heading.

Spending

Spending is how much you have spent and what you spent it on. Where did all the money go?? Katie and I use Emma in the UK that lets you link up your accounts and cards and then categorise them. Then we can see where all the money goes!

We track our cash spending in a JotForm that we have linked up to a spreadsheet and then add it all up at the end of the month. It is fascinating to see where all our money goes and how much Alan spend on Lego!

We can see we spent XX% on accommodation, XX% on food etc.

There are many different ways to track your spending and Katie and I have written separate articles about this and created a spending tracker for you.

There are different apps that you can use or you can simply view your accounts manually to get this information. Find what works best for you. The best system is the one you actually use.

What do you spend all your money on? Isn’t it time you found out and worked out if you are getting value from all that hard earned bank?

In the picture to the right you can see a visual of where our money went for January 2024! Katie creates some visuals to show how much we spent and what we spent it on!

As you can see our biggest expense was accommodation! We stayed on the beach in Mexico and it was spectacular and worth every penny!

We ate out a lot! Mexican food is amazing and then the flights to get from Bogota, where we started the year, to Puerto Vallarta were expensive. We did have an amazing time though. Below are three pictures of our time in Mexico. That is where our money went! Where does your money go each month?

How big is your gap?

This is the size of the gap between your income and spending. This is the key to long-term financial success. If there is no gap between your income and spending then you are spending everything you earn and will remain broke.

A lot of people have a negative gap! Meaning they spend more than they earn and are heading for financial disaster without actually knowing it. Debt starts to build up and you end up in a terrible financial position. How do I know? I have seen it happen to so many people including my parents.

Don’t sleep walk into financial disaster, know what is happening and know with absolute clarity if you are saving and investing any of your money at all!

The important thing is then what you do with your gap. How much of your gap are you using to build long-term wealth and look after future you. We wrote a quick guide to show you – what to do with your gap.

We do a simple sum each month to work out if our spending is lower than our income. Katie created a how big is your gap tracker to help you do this on a monthly basis. You can find the link in the next section as this number is linked to your wealth building rate.

Wealth Building Rate

How much are you putting towards looking after future you and getting your finances straight? This is where you put your gap to use! How much are you putting towards building your emergency fund, to paying off debt and to buying assets?

The interesting thing about the wealth-building rate is it can tell you your working life span. If you have a 50% wealth-building rate then you will have to work for 17 years until you have enough to retire. So if you start like this at 23 you could be retired at 40.

It doesn’t matter your starting age. If you are starting with nothing at age 40 then you still have a 17 year working lifespan if you have a wealth building rate of 50% so you could retire at 57. Still 10 years in front of state retirement age!

If you have a 6% wealth-building rate you may never be able to retire so knowing this figure and working to improve it is critical to your long-term financial success. Katie, I and the ninjas created two resources to help you:

If you have been on or are attending Rebel Finance School then this number and these figures are used in week 9: predicting your financial future to see if you have enough to retire and when you can retire. There is a simple way to know if you have enough to last for the rest of your life!

Those are the four numbers that we track each month and work out at our monthly finance meeting. The first few times you do this it might take hours but I promise, as you practice this each month, it gets easier and easier. To the point when you will be able to work out your net-worth in about 15 minutes!

Debt Attack Strategy

If you have debt that you are working to clear then checking in on it once a month and focusing your energy to get rid of it is a fantastic thing to do. Where focus goes energy flows. Here is what we would do:

  • Check to see if any 0% interest rates are coming to an end
  • Review the list of debts and think if there is a way I can reduce any of them
  • Celebrate any reductions you have made this month
  • Review the debt attack strategy.

Katie and the Ninjas also produced a debt attack calculator to help you see the fastest way out which you can find here.

Discussing your finances

After you have worked out the numbers then it becomes time to discuss or reflect on them and work out what to do next. Questions will help you work out what to do. Katie and I have a series of questions that we ask every single month to help us focus. These questions generate discussion, ideas and more.

Even if you are doing the monthly finance meeting on your on you can still ask them and write down your own answers. It starts with tracking the numbers and ends with doing something to improve them. Small changes over time create epic results. We always start with one of the most powerful questions we ask ourselves.

If you keep going like this, are you happy with the destination?

You can’t answer this question if you don’t track your numbers. Most people have NO idea if they are wealthier this month than the last! Most people have no idea if they are wealthier this year than the last. They don’t track, they don’t know, they just spend what they earn each month.

The monthly finance meeting smashes this problem and allows you to know if you are heading in the right direction with your finances or not!

This is how you avoid long term financial disaster and create a bright financial future.

Many years ago my parents owned a pub in Hampshire. My mum ran it successfully for years, did the books and tracked the profits. My dad wanted to expand the business. He took a huge loan from the brewery to renovate the pub, expand the restaurant and triple the number of seats!

When he took over he also took over doing the books and tracking the finance. My Mum focused on running the place and making the restaurant run smoothly. My Dad knew they weren’t making enough to cover the loan and lease payments. He kind of knew.

After about two years the accountant and my parents had a super painful meeting. They have been losing money every month for two years. They hadn’t been looking at it monthly and they just “woke up two years later in a financial pickle, having worked so hard for two years.

My Dad blamed how high the lease payments and debt repayments where. In a way that was right as they weren’t making enough to pay that. In another way he had signed up to them and committed to increase revenue to cover that.

If they had been asking each month, if we keep going like this are we happy with the destination? Then they would have been able to see this coming. For a number of reasons eventually this led to them both going bankrupt.

Where are you heading? If you track your finances and start to chart out where you are heading you can see if you will have anything for retirement. You will be able to see if you are building enough investments to be able to live

Have a look at your numbers after a couple of months of tracking and start to figure out if you are truly happy with the financial destiny you are creating for yourself month by month.

Questions

After we have worked out the numbers we sit and chat about them over breakfast. We have a set of questions that we ask each other, each month. These questions help you think about your finances, and work out what is going well and what you want to improve for next month.

You don’t have to answer them all. they are designed to get you think. Maybe answer a couple and jot some notes down! Time to get thinking about your money! Here are the questions we ask ourselves:

  • What went well this month?
  • What did we spend a lot on?
  • What really added value to our lives?
  • What was a waste of money?
  • Where could we spend more?
  • Where could we spend less?
  • How big was our gap this month? What are 5 ideas for increasing it next month?
  • How high was our wealth-building rate? What will we do to increase it next month?
  • Are we happy with the direction we are heading for each of the 4 numbers we’ve captured?

The questions are meant to inspire discussion and help us tweak our finances and improve them every single month. If we can get 1% better each and every single month, by the end of the year we have made HUGE progress and by the end of the decade, we are in a different financial league altogether!

Doing it with others

It is always better when you do it with other people! Katie and I LOVE doing our finance meeting together and we actually think it is critically important for the health of our relationship.

We have seen so many couples and families where one partner does the finances and the other ignores / avoids it. It always leads to discontent, discord and blame if things go wrong. It leads to one person feeling like they are doing all the work and have to shoulder the responsibility alone, and it leads to biased financial decisions.

We have seen this rip apart enough families to know that we need to both have responsibility and work together in something as important as our finances.

Work on your finances as a couple or as a family. Get the whole family involved and start teaching them about money at a young age.

If you don’t have a partner or family to do this with then do it with a friend. For a year or so we used to do our monthly finance meeting with another couple and share and discuss our numbers. I know this sounds weird because most people don’t even discuss money, but how are we meant to learn and grow if we don’t have people to discuss and bounce off of?

Maybe try and bribe them with a nice breakfast, glass of wine or home cooked curry and make it as much fun as possible! ​

If you struggle to communicate with your partner about money, check out this article we wrote about how to talk about your finances.

What could go wrong and how to avoid it.

Our finance meetings have not always been plain sailing! Sometimes we fall out and argue during them, sometimes they bring up strong emotions and sometimes we just get grumpy!

Here are some of the most common mistakes we have seen made and made ourselves. We are sharing this to help you understand that it is normal and healthy to have disagreements and that it happens to the best of us!

Actively Listen with Patience – Communication is key. It is important that if you are doing this with others that everyone feels that they are being heard. It is about actively listening, collaborating together and removing any sense of hierarchy in these discussions.

Even if someone is earning more than the other person, that doesn’t mean that by default they are in charge and what they say is final. Everyone needs to feel like they are being heard so ask the questions and give every person there the chance to answer. Healthy discussions and debates can lead to the best solutions.

Use your Empathy – It can be very easy, especially at the beginning when addressing finances for there to be a lot of surprises, ugly truths and potential judgement. It is important to acknowledge where your finances are and what led to this point.

What we want to avoid is doing so in a judgemental way that can isolate the other person or people involved and make them defensive. If the other people end up feeling defensive they want to withdraw from the discussion and journey. This includes the judgement that you may be directing at yourself.

Looking at the number is NOT a chance to beat yourself up for things that happened in the past. We are where we are! Forgive past you / past them for the things that have happened and let’s move forward. It is important to remember that it is not a blame game, but rather to see it as an opportunity for positive change and work towards a better financial future.

Stay Engaged and Committed – If things are getting off track, stop and reassess your ‘Why’ – is it strong, compelling and motivating enough to keep yourself and everyone on track in taking control and keeping on top of their finances.

Katie and I have to do this! If we get lost, if we start to grumble at each other we go back to the “why”! Why are we here? What are we working on together? With a big enough “why”, the “how” will become possible.

Be patient with yourself and with others that may be on this journey with you, there can/will be bumps in the road and setbacks. It is important to remember that you are in this together. Alan’s way of saying this is “shit is going to happen”. We just need to breath and then work out what to do next together.

Tracking over time

What’s cool is if you start to do this and track your numbers over time you can start to see the trend and then start to visualise it on a graph. Then you can start to predict where your finances are heading and where you might get to later in life.

It is so much fun when you are able to track over time!

Katie and I created this chart to show how much money we have earnt in our life time and how much we have kept from our earnings.

What was amazing was that in 2020 we actually became worth more than we had ever earnt! How is that even possible? Read this article: life for free forever

​When you start to create charts and graphs you can see if your finances are heading in the right direction or not! Who knew graphs could be so much fun! (Well Katie did!)

Action Time

Now comes you turn. Time to take action. It is lovely reading an article about a monthly finance meeting, looking at our chart and pictures, but if you don’t do it yourself it doesn’t work.

Time to start:

  • Who: decide if you are going to do the finance meeting alone, with the family or with a friend
  • When: choose a date and put it in the calendar/diary and invite the other people.
  • Where: choose where you are going to do it. A nice café, a place for breakfast (Alan’s favourite) or at home with a glass of wine?
  • Prepare: If you are doing this for the first time, download the net-worth tracker and the how big is your gap template ready to go

Remember the first time you might not get it all done in one go. That is ok. Do as much as you can and then come back at it. We have time and it is an excuse to hang out with your partner / friends and talk about money again!

Donegan Monthly Finance Meeting

This is the Donegans at Pergamino in Medellin, Colombia doing their monthly finance meeting together! Amazing breakfast, track the numbers and chat about how we can improve!

Remember this is all about building the future you want and having fun along the way. So relax and have fun as you go!

Finance can be fun!

If you can find a way to make tracking your finances fun for all and do it regularly, the progress you will start to see over the years is unbelievable.

Not only that but you will be helping all the people around you to understand finances and be setting them up for a brighter finance future!

We would LOVE to know what you think of the article, what your biggest challenges are doing this and what you learn along the way.

We are always working to make our financial resources better for you and we can only do this with your feedback! Please leave a message, a like or a share! It means the world to us!

The Donegans

Rebel Finance School

THANK YOU

I would like to thank Haseena from the Rebel Finance School group for contributing to this article. She made what I started so much better and added some great ideas. Thanks for helping me with the article and contributing Haseena!